After being compared to “inmates running the prison” by team owner Bob McNair, a majority of the Houston Texans responded by taking a knee during the national anthem before their game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
McNair’s comments were revealed in an ESPN the Magazine feature story published on Friday that gave an inside account of the NFL’s prolonged struggles with their response to national anthem protests. “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair said at a meeting regarding NFL players’ demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality.
Texans players understandably took great offense to being compared to prisoners. Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins skipped practice on Friday, as did running back D’Onta Foreman. The rest of the team discussed staging a walkout but were “persuaded to stay,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
McNair issued an apology on Saturday, essentially stating that he’s bad at metaphors. “I was not referring to [Texans] players. … I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners.”
Speaking with Pro Football Talk on Saturday, Texans tackle Duane Brown recalled that McNair, who contributed to the Trump campaign and donated $1 million to his inaugural committee, was “visibly upset” after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. According to Brown, McNair told players, “I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.”
Players had been planning some form of protest for Sunday in response to his “inmates” comments, with some reports saying they even considered peeling the Texans logo of their helmets. They settled on kneeling, but the demonstration was not carried live by CBS, as the network began its broadcast after the completion of the anthem.